The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Blinded By The Light

The BBC’s production of Day Of The Triffids.

Hmmm. Not totally keen, I’m afraid. My main problem with it is that, IMHO, the story is not an action-adventure special-effects fest. That’s not the point of the original novel, which is a terribly, terribly British and restrained account of the apocalypse in which everyone maintains a stiff-upper-lip but does What Needs To Be Done. No, the point of the story is to create an apocalypse out of humanity losing one of its senses (in this case, sight) – about how vulnerable our society is, that so much is dependent upon so little. The Triffids are merely a plot device; to illustrate that without sight, Man is no longer at the top of the food chain, and that even a slow, lumbering plant that could easily be out-run is now a threat – because it still retains a form of ‘sight’.

The new adaptation seemed to have been filtered through a prism of cliché; a little bit of ‘Lost’ here, a little bit of ‘28 Days Later’ there. Atmosphere and character were replaced by CGI and melodrama. The book’s survivalist themes were sidelined, instead we had spurious ‘updating’ with Spudgun from 'Trainspotting' as a vegetable-liberationist (appropriately enough), a minor character (Torrence) foregrounded, a hokey search-for-a-father-son-redemption plot, a futile attempt at finding a ‘cure’, and a load of nonsense about masks and poison in Zaire. With every plot development being spelt out for the hard of understanding through narration and numerous illustrative flashbacks (a common failing of British television; underestimating the audience’s intelligence. The problem being, once you’ve started thinking someone is not as clever than you, inevitably you start treating them as though they are thick.)

I didn’t think the Triffids were too bad, but the problem with CGI is that no matter how technically convincing it is, what we’re seeing is still laughably absurd, so the audience is always aware it’s watching a computer-generated composite. I think the actors were struggling to make sense of their characters; Joely Richardson under-playing, Eddie Izzard going to the other extreme, rolling his eyes and waggling his fingers.

Oh, and I’m still not sure how they got from Hampstead Heath to a nunnery in the middle of the countryside. But then, the story never gave any clue as the timescale of what was happening - was it all in the space of one week, or over a number of months?

Have to say, for all its failings, the BBC’s early 80’s production remains definitive.

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